“Bread of Life” Available for All
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and, for a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.”—JOHN 6:51.
1. What tragic situation faces mankind today?
THE world of mankind has long been sustained by bread, the most widely eaten food on earth. Appropriately, it has been called the staff of life. But today hunger for bread has become a tragic issue. Hunger and famine now affect one quarter of earth’s inhabitants. Recently, The Globe and Mail of Toronto, Canada, stated, “Famine, like war, knows no frontiers.” The paper quoted an executive of UN emergency operations in Africa as warning that Africa is on the brink of “one of the greatest human tragedies, one of the greatest human challenges, that we’ve ever faced.”
2, 3. (a) Food shortages are part of what sign? (b) How will food problems be solved? (c) What more is needed, and what happy assurance does Isaiah 25:8 give?
2 Jesus prophesied that food shortages would be part of the sign of his presence in Kingdom power. (Matthew 24:3, 7, 32, 33; 25:31, 32; Luke 21:11) How glad we can be that his Kingdom is at hand! Shortly, this glorious King will vanquish all enemies of mankind, doing away with the political and economic injustices that have brought such cruel suffering. Then all peoples will rejoice at receiving their bread for each day.—Matthew 6:10, 11; 24:21, 22; Daniel 2:44; Proverbs 29:2.
3 Under righteous government, our good earth will be capable of producing “an overflow” of food, enough to satisfy many more than the present world population. (Psalm 72:12-14, 16, 18) Jehovah will make “a banquet” of good things for his people. (Isaiah 25:6) But something additional is needed. As the years roll by, will humans still get ill and die? Happily, Isaiah 25:8 goes on to say of Jehovah: “He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” How does this come about?
Jehovah’s Loving Provision
4. What loving provision did Jehovah arrange in Egypt?
4 When Joseph was food administrator in Egypt, there was grain in abundance. This was because Joseph, after being appointed by Pharaoh, prepared wisely for the foretold seven years of famine, and Jehovah lovingly added his blessing. (Genesis 41:49) There was plenty for all, and there was some to spare. When Joseph’s father Jacob, Joseph’s brothers, and their families came down to join Joseph in Egypt, they benefited greatly by that divine providence. No doubt those Israelites here became well acquainted also with fermented wheat-dough bread, as this apparently originated in Egypt.
5. (a) How did Jehovah provide sustenance in the wilderness? (b) Who shared with Israel in this blessing, and why?
5 Later, Jehovah made further loving provision for his people. This was when the millions of Israelites left Egypt to pass through the Sinai wilderness. How could this great crowd find sustenance in that bleak, unfriendly desert? Though Jehovah had been angered by their lack of faith, he “opened the very doors of heaven. And he kept raining upon them manna to eat, and the grain of heaven he gave to them.” “With bread from heaven he kept satisfying them” for 40 long years. (Psalm 78:22-24; 105:40; Exodus 16:4, 5, 31, 35) And do not forget that the Israelites were not alone in eating manna. “A vast mixed company” of non-Israelites exercised faith in Jehovah and joined them in the exodus from Egypt. God provided manna for them also.—Exodus 12:38.
6. (a) What greater need does man have, and why? (b) What did Israel’s sacrifices emphasize, and what did they foreshadow?
6 However, mankind has always had a need greater than that for literal “bread from heaven.” Even those who ate the miraculously provided manna grew old and died, for man’s inherited sinful condition makes death inevitable, no matter what his diet. (Romans 5:12) Israel’s sacrifices provided a means to maintain a good relationship with God, but those sacrifices also emphasized the nation’s sinfulness. They were “at no time able to take sins away completely.” Further, those offerings foreshadowed Jesus’ “one sacrifice,” which provides for removing sins “perpetually.” From his exalted position in heaven, Jesus is now able to administer the merit of that sacrifice.—Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-13.
“True Bread From Heaven”
7. (a) Jesus’ words in John chapter 6 must be viewed in what new context? (b) Why did Jesus rebuke the crowd?
7 Let us turn now to John chapter 6. Jesus’ remarks here are not a continuation of what is recorded in Joh chapter 5. The context is different, for another year has passed. It is now 32 C.E. The setting is no longer among the self-righteous Jews in Jerusalem but among the common people in Galilee. Jesus has just performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 men from five barley loaves and two small fishes. The next day, the crowd follows Jesus, expecting another free meal. So Jesus tells them: “You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied. Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for life everlasting.” Jesus had been sent by his Father to provide such food for all who would exercise faith in him. This would be “the true bread from heaven,” with more lasting effects than the literal manna that the ancient Israelites ate.—John 6:26-32.
8. How may one attain to everlasting life?
8 Jesus goes on to explain the benefits to be derived from that “food,” telling them: “I am the bread of life. He that comes to me will not get hungry at all, and he that exercises faith in me will never get thirsty at all. . . . For this is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day.”—John 6:35-40.
9, 10. (a) How does “the bread of life” contrast with manna? (b) According to John 6:42-51, for whom did Jesus give his flesh? (c) How do these ‘eat his flesh’?
9 Those materialistic Jews take issue with these words. They see in Jesus nothing more than a son of Joseph and Mary. Jesus warns them: “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him; and I will resurrect him in the last day.” Then he repeats: “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and, for a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.”—John 6:42-51.
10 Consequently, it was for “the life of the world”—the entire world of redeemable mankind—that Jesus gave his flesh. And “anyone” of the world of mankind who eats symbolically of that “bread,” by showing faith in the redeeming power of Jesus’ sacrifice, may enter onto the way to everlasting life. Here, the “vast mixed company” that shared with the Israelites in eating the manna in the wilderness foreshadow the great crowd of Jesus’ “other sheep” who, along with the anointed remnant of “the Israel of God,” are now eating Jesus’ flesh in a figurative sense. This they do by exercising faith in his sacrifice.—Galatians 6:16; Romans 10:9, 10.
11. What further words of Jesus shocked the Jews, and why?
11 Back in Galilee, many of Jesus’ listeners are shocked by his talk. So while still on the topic of his flesh, he even goes a step further, telling them: “Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:53-55) Shocking indeed! Not only is the idea of cannibalism repulsive to those Jews but the Law at Leviticus 17:14 positively forbade eating “the blood of any sort of flesh.”
12. (a) What is Jesus here emphasizing? (b) What scriptures show that this is not restricted to Jesus’ joint heirs?
12 Of course, Jesus is here emphasizing that anyone who is to attain to everlasting life must do so on the basis of exercising faith in the sacrifice that Jesus later made in offering up his perfect human body and pouring out his lifeblood. (Hebrews 10:5, 10; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 2:24) This provision is not restricted to Jesus’ joint heirs. It must also include the “great crowd,” who survive “the great tribulation,” for these “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Their having faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, as demonstrated also by their rendering God “sacred service,” results in their preservation through earth’s greatest time of distress. Similarly, Rahab was declared righteous and survived when Joshua devoted Jericho to destruction.—Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, 15; Joshua 6:16, 17; James 2:25.
“Life in Yourselves”
13. (a) In comparing John 5:26 and John 6:53, what is to be noted? (b) What common Greek grammatical construction helps us to understand John 6:53? (c) Hence, what does it mean to have “life in yourselves,” and to whom do these words apply?
13 At John 6:53, 54, Jesus equates “everlasting life” with having “life in yourselves.” So, in this context, the expression “life in yourselves” seems to have a different significance from that used by Jesus in John 5:26. Expressions of the same grammatical construction as having “life in yourselves” occur elsewhere in the Greek Scriptures. For example: “Have salt in yourselves” (Mark 9:50) and “receiving in themselves the full recompense” (Romans 1:27).* In these examples, the phrase does not signify power to bestow salt or recompense on others. Rather, internal completeness or fullness is indicated. Thus, according to the context of John 6:53, having “life in yourselves” would here mean entering at last into the very fullness of life. The “little flock” of Kingdom heirs experience this at their resurrection into the heavens. The “other sheep” experience it after the end of the thousand years, when they are tested and declared righteous for everlasting life in the Paradise earth.—1 John 3:2; Revelation 20:4, 5.
14. Who else will benefit from the “bread from heaven,” and how?
14 Others, too, can benefit from the “bread from heaven.” Jesus said of the one that ‘eats his flesh and drinks his blood’ but who dies: “I shall resurrect him at the last day.” It is understood that anointed Christians sleeping in death are raised at the sounding of “the last trumpet,” which takes place during the “manifestation” of Jesus Christ in Kingdom glory. (1 Corinthians 15:52; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8) But what of the prospective “other sheep” who fall asleep in death? Martha’s words at the time of Lazarus’ death are of interest here, for at that time God-fearing Jews had no hope other than an earthly resurrection. Martha’s faith was expressed in the words: “I know he [Lazarus] will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) We who are living now at Christ’s presence can therefore hope that faithful ones of the “great crowd” that fall asleep in death will have an early resurrection here on earth, so that they may again partake of the “bread from heaven,” with everlasting life in view. What a grand hope that is, a hope assured in that Jesus himself was raised from the dead!—1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
“In Union With Christ”
15. Jesus’ words “in union with me” apply to whom, and why do you so answer?
15 Jesus continues: “He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him.” (John 6:56) This, then, is true of “anyone” who thus exercises faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, with the prospect of having ‘life in himself.’ All who manifest such faith can come to be “in union with” Jesus. Of course, the “great crowd,” having earthly hopes, are not “in union with Christ” in the sense of being joint heirs with him, members of his bride who receive a heavenly resurrection like his. (Romans 8:1, 10; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 11:2; Galatians 3:28, 29; Ephesians 1:1, 4, 11; Philippians 3:8-11) Yet all with earthly hopes can be, actually must be, in complete harmony with the Father and the Son in knowing and doing the “perfect will of God,” even as is true of the “little flock.”—Romans 12:2; compare John 17:21.
16. (a) In what vital ways are all who exercise faith in Christ’s sacrifice “in union with” Jesus? (b) In what is their oneness of purpose and effort reflected?
16 Consequently, the sacrificial value of the flesh and blood of Christ is available to all today who exercise faith, and all who avail themselves of it can, in vital ways, be “in union with” Jesus. All are to become part of the universal family of Jehovah God. In these critical “last days,” they enjoy a worldwide unity of belief, purpose, and activity. Exercising faith in Jesus, they are enabled to “do works greater” in scope than those that Jesus performed here on earth. And let it be noted that the millions of the “great crowd” now form 99.7 percent of those doing Jehovah’s work at this time. (John 14:12; Romans 10:18) This oneness of purpose and effort is reflected in the grand global witness and willing support of the Watch Tower Society’s building programs. (Psalm 110:3) How many of the world of mankind will yet believe and come into this precious unity remains to be seen. A recent report shows 3,024,131 active Witnesses.
17. What points should be appreciated by all attending the Memorial?
17 It is hoped that many interested persons will swell the ranks of those attending the 1986 Memorial celebration. Millions of the “other sheep” will be present, together with the dwindling thousands of the “little flock”—all deeply appreciative of Jehovah’s loving provision through Christ, recognizing how vital the flesh and blood of Christ are. However, all should clearly discern where they stand. Partaking of the Memorial emblems does not bestow everlasting life. These are symbols of Jesus’ sacrifice, which is first applied in connection with the “new covenant.” Those anointed ones taken into that covenant, and they alone, properly partake of the emblems. One is either in that new covenant or not. (1 Corinthians 11:20, 23-26) Those who are not in the new covenant and who have not been taken by Jesus into a covenant for a kingdom do not partake of the Memorial emblems, but they still should recognize how important to them Jesus’ sacrificed flesh and blood are. (Luke 22:14-20, 28-30) This sacrifice is the means whereby they can gain everlasting life on earth.
18. What happiness results from clearly discerning all that Jesus’ sacrifice means?
18 May we therefore approach this Memorial occasion with clear discernment of all that Jesus’ sacrifice means for mankind. May those of the “little flock” treasure their calling, and may the growing crowd of the “other sheep” rejoice in the prospect of having perfect earthly ‘life in themselves,’ while they value highly their union, right now, with the Father, the Son, and the diminishing number of the anointed remnant yet on earth. How happy we are that “the bread of life” is now available for all!
Questions in Review
□ In 32 C.E., Jesus spoke of what two kinds of manna, as provided for whom?
□ Whom does Jesus invite to ‘feed on his flesh and drink his blood,’ and how do they do this?
□ What is meant by having “life in yourselves,” and how and when is this attained?
□ What happiness may all now share with regard to “the bread of life”?